Effective March 18, 2022, COVID-19 is no longer designated as an airborne infectious disease that presents a serious risk of harm under the NYS HERO Act, according to the New York State Department of Labor's website.
This means that employers in New York State can deactivate their HERO Act plans and return to business as normal. However, all NYS employers must still have a prevention plan in place, keep it updated according to HERO Act regulations, and clearly communicate it to their employees, both by providing a copy to all current and incoming employees and by posting it at each of their work sites.
As previously reported, the NYS HERO Act aims to improve the legal right to a safe workplace, where previously infectious diseases fell through the legal cracks. It is also meant to help stem the spread of diseases like COVID-19, and give employees a powerful voice in the safety protocol at their worksites. With guidance from the NYS Department of Labor, businesses are required to develop and adhere to a new Airborne Infectious Disease Safety Plan.
Employers with more than 10 employees must also allow non-supervisory employees to form a “Safety Committee.” The members of the committee must be chosen by the non-supervisory employees themselves, and are protected under the act by a series of anti-retaliation measures.
Once the NYS Commissioner of Health designates an airborne infectious disease as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health,” employers are required to activate their HERO Act Prevention Plans. The first of these designations was made for COVID-19 on September 6, 2021 and, through a series of extensions, lasted until March 17, 2022, when the NYS DOL updated its website.